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Big Sur: Bicycling, and other tips, for the Big Sur Coast

If you’re inclined to bike Big Sur…

Please first take time to scroll down to this post’s tips on bicycling the Big Sur Coast. To share with others, you may find it most convenient to remember this short link:
Who bikes Big Sur?

Santa Cruz County residents Renee Chaffin and Sean Ardley did a bike-and-ride trip. When I saw them here, across from the Hawthorne Gallery, they were biking to Santa Lucia.

A visitor from Washington state, who I met on a blustery spring day.

WA cyclist on Big Sur Coast March 2014

Benefitting Easter Seals, these touring cyclists were biking the Big Sur Coast and beyond.

These patrons of the Big Sur River Inn restaurant were pleased to know about the discounts there on Thursdays for people who bike, or bike-and-ride, to their location. (The restaurant is a participant in the countywide HER Helmet Thursdays project.)

Big Sur River Inn restaurant patrons

Below: Bike-touring visitor Dennis finds that having the company of his faithful companion, Sally, can make long, isolated stretches of riding more enjoyable. To see others who bike with a dog in Monterey County, along with tips for dog-lovers here and  elsewhere; click here.Dennis and Sally cropped

Below: U.S. Marine Corps veteran Rob Jones biked the Big Sur Coast in March 2014 as part of his coast-to-coast journey. Rob biked America to raise funds for wounded vets.

Rob is pictured between Point Sur and Andrew Molera. You can’t tell by his smile, but–you’ve heard of March winds? Rob was biking Big Sur on a very blustery day.

NPS Foundation Cycling Club kept up with Rob from the Salinas River Wildlife Refuge to Bixby Bridge on the Big Sur Coast. Moi? I biked with Rob further south. Big Sur winds that day, the steep hills, and ultra-fit Rob’s condition—along with his e-assist—meant I only biked with Rob a very short way.

Rob Jones south of Point Sur north of Andrew Molera 3-31-14
Cruising a section of Highway 1, at a pace that makes it easy to stop and hug a redwood when its beauty overtakes you.

The local earth-care activist below, spotted in the Carmel Highlands, was headed south to bike a stretch of the Big Sur Coast. See Bicycling Monterey’s Bicycling and Ecotourism / Good Earthkeeping Right at Home for related info.

Caring for beautiful Big Sur

Caring for Big Sur includes making an effort to reduce motor vehicle traffic along the Big Sur Coast.

How? Consider whether you are able to carpool, or use a Monterey-Salinas Transit bus, or use other ridesharing options that may be available. For example, in 2011, Magnus Toren of the Henry Miller Library and Britt Govea of Folk Yeah teamed up with Zimride so ridesharing could happen to the Miller shows. See some details here, but for updated info, check in with the library or Zimride.

Whether you hike or bike or just sit and relax, being outside of a motor vehicle is the way to really get to know Big Sur.
Many people wouldn’t find biking Highway 1 is right for them, but if traveling public side roads in the Big Sur area, then biking (or bike-and-ride with a personal vehicle, etc.) could be fun, at least part of the time.
Help keep the home of these Big Sur lassies beautiful.

Reminder: The Big Sur River Inn restaurant is a participant in the HER Helmet Thursdays project. The restaurant is a historic and popular Monterey County spot.

Below: Jackson Stock—son and former band mate of the late Jake Stock of the legendary Abalone Stompers—was playing at the Big Sur River Inn restaurant as part of their Sunday Music at the River series when I snapped this photo on May 22, 2011. Jackson was happy to toot his horn about keeping unnecessary cars off the road along the magnificent Big Sur Coast, a jewel of his native Monterey County.

Tips on bicycling the Big Sur Coast

Excellent resource on Big Sur, including about biking: Keith Vandevere

Among the most reliable local information resources is Monterey County Planning Commissioner Keith Vandevere. Keith’s grounded knowledge comes from being a Monterey County native who bikes and hikes a lot. Check out Keith’s blog Xasáuan Today.

General tips on biking Big Sur

As you may guess from the photos above, touring and other serious cyclists are a common sight on the Big Sur Coast. But heavy motor vehicle traffic is even more common. For many people who bike, the stress of sharing two-lane Highway 1 with lots of motor vehicles—often driven by people unfamiliar with the road and distracted by the beauty—can make biking Big Sur even more challenging than steep terrain.

What to do? Plan your schedule so you’re biking Big Sur on dates, and times of day, when traffic is lightest. Relax on the Big Sur Coast during peak traffic times, enjoying the grandeur of that scenery from a beach or other spot. Then, after traffic has diminished, enjoy biking Big Sur—perhaps even under the stars. See Wyatt Wood’s tail light tips in Biking in the Dark.

You may find of interest “Bike Touring Steinbeck Country” in California’s Adventure Sports Journal. It shares the experience of three visitors—Rick Gunn, Gary Cronk, and Eric Jarvis—about biking in Big Sur and elsewhere in Monterey County.

Andrew Molera—and other California State Parks

Biking Andrew Molera? Yield to horses on shared paths. See “All kinds of trails for all levels of cycling—Biking in California State Parks.” For any changes about bikes in the park, and for other details, refer to Andrew Molera website (a local contact, if necessary to phone with your questions, is 831/667-2315).

  • Note that more popular than Andrew Molera for mountain biking in Monterey County are Fort Ord and other locations. Check in with Monterey Off Road Cycling Association (MORCA), whose most dedicated, longtime members, such as Henrietta Stern, will be happy to answer your questions.
  • Please respect and follow the recommendations of our local mountain biking community leaders such as Henrietta about how to protect and love the land, how to ride courteously on shared trails, and more. Some tips are linked in Bicycling Monterey’s rain, cold temps tips (click here, then scroll to “Specific to mountain biking”).

Except for touring cyclists and other people in great physical condition, and who are experienced with such road and traffic conditions, doing a bike-and-ride trip is the best way for many people to bike along the Big Sur Coast. Any mile of biking beats a mile of driving, and there’s no shame in doing both.

For tips on taking your bicycle aboard a Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) bus, click here.

Related tips

People biking to Big Sur may also wish to refer to tips on bicycling Carmel (north of Big Sur), which includes local bike shops just off Highway 1 between Carmel Valley Road and Rio Road.

Some tips in the Serious Cyclists section of the Tips for Bicycling Monterey County guide may also be of interest to you.


The Tips for Bicycling Monterey County guide includes a bike maps section. It features Monterey County maps and some other California bicycle maps, including San Luis Obispo County (south of Big Sur).

Excellent resource on Big Sur, for general information: Big Sur Kate 
While not at all a cycling-focused blog, Big Sur Kate (the blog of retired attorney and Big Sur resident Kate Woods Novoa) is a highly valuable resource for anyone who visits or lives in Big Sur.

Road closures, weather conditions, and other important issues for the Big Sur Coast—including at times such as the Soberanes fire—are addressed on Kate’s award-winning blog. Kate is also on Facebook and on Twitter @bigsurkate.

Whether you are a touring cyclist, a mountain biker, or other person biking, Bicycling Monterey encourages respect for Kate’s advisories to people who bike, such as her 3/20/17 post, “To all our Big Sur visitors, particularly bicyclists…

Are motor vehicles backing up behind you on Highway 1 (or elsewhere)? Please note the FAQs in the following Bicycling Monterey post: “Three Feet for Safety Act is CA law.”

My goddaughter’s home in Big Sur was on the front page of the Monterey Herald more than once during the Soberanes fire. Thankfully, her home was spared, but so many were not. Whether you’re camping, hiking, biking, driving, or whatever, if you and your companions haven’t had Scouting or other experiences where the importance of fire safety is emphasized, please make up for that now; one place to start is


Other places to bike in Monterey County 

For starters, check out Bicycling Monterey’s Where to Bike in Monterey County; tips on biking Carmel and Carmel Valley, Castroville and elsewhere in North CountyGreenfield and elsewhere in South County, Pebble Beach,  Salinas, and Seaside; and Cycling to Monterey County’s History Spots. A variety of Monterey County bike maps are available, including a HER Helmet Thursdays map—hundreds of places in 19 Monterey County communities that give discounts on Thursdays to people who bike.
From May 1, 2009 to May 1, 2017 the Bicycling Monterey website and other Bicycling Monterey projects have been provided on an entirely volunteer basis. If you find Bicycling Monterey of value, consider making a contribution. Click here for ways to give and FAQS.

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